Raekwon: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part II

By: Ron Hart

Do you hear that? That's the collective sigh of relief expulsed by the fan base of the Wu-Tang Clan, who has been waiting over a decade for the Staten Island super crew's executive chef, Raekwon, to properly follow up his masterpiece of a debut, 1995's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.

After releasing a pair of less than stellar subsequent releases in 1999's absolutely horrid Immobilarity and 2003's only-slightly-better The Lex Diamond Story, it turned out the only way to succeed what is universally hailed as one of three best Wu albums (behind 36 Chambers and Liquid Swords) was to finally deliver on Cuban Linx's long-in-the-works sequel. Though it does feature the out-of-the-park combination of Rae and his longtime partner in rhyme Ghostface Killah, the RZA is only producing a bit this this time around, but Cuban Linx Pt. II (released September 8 on ICE H2O/EMI) does, in fact, present a slew of A-list producers and MCs that more than make up for the clown car of bozos that was Raekwon's halfhearted crew the American C.R.E.A.M. Team, who deep-sixed Immobilarity.

Though RZA's sonic wisdom only appears twice here (delivering pure fire on the soulful first single "New Wu," featuring Ghostface and Method Man, and The Godfather theme music-riffing "Black Mozart" with a never-better Inspectah Deck in tow) in lieu of his executive producer credit we get a varied who's who of producers including Necro, Eric Sermon, Dr. Dre, Scram Jones, Pete Rock, Marley Marl, Allah Mathematics, the late, great J. Dilla, and surprisingly, electronic artist BT offering up poison-tipped sound darts within the framework of the Wu-Tang paradigm like it was 1994 all over again.

Lyrically, in addition to Ghost back riding shotgun across the majority of these 22 tracks, Rae also employs the likes of some seriously heavy hitters to help him spread his brolic gospel, including fellow Clan members Meth, Deck, GZA, Cappadonna and Masta Killa, as well as Beanie Sigel on the aching "Have Mercy," Busta Rhymes on the Dre-blessed "About Me," Jadakiss and Styles P. of The Lox on "Broken Safety," and even old school legend Slick Rick on the gritty "We Will Rob You." Wu-Tang philosopher Popa Wu, who delivers the auspicious intro "Return of the North Star," offering Raekwon some words of wisdom to encourage the 41-year-old MC to deliver the strength of street knowledge to a whole new generation of hip-hop fans.

After years of false starts, pre-ejaculated hypefits, and the near collapse of the Wu-Tang Clan dynasty in the wake of some internal beef between the main principles of the Cuban Linx legacy, it's a wonderful thing to see the Chef back in the kitchen cooking up the kind of crack MCs half his age have absolutely no clue how to properly dish out. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II is not only the best Wu-related album since Ghost's Supreme Clientele, it stands tall as THE hip hop banger of 2009, hands down.

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[Published on: 11/12/09]

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